You have just heard the term “Autism Spectrum Disorder”. Perhaps it was a doctor or some other professional who suggested your child may have Autism. Now what do you do?
Most family doctors have only a surface knowledge of Autism. A good General Practitioner is trained to look for the signs of the disorder and raise the warning as early as possible.
Before you run headlong into booking an assessment, there is an excellent self-assessment tool available online called the M-CHAT. It is a series of questions that will help you decide if your child should be assessed by a professional. The latest version is available at Autism Speaks.
For step by step instructions refer to the Timeline Checklist on my Files page.
Who can make the diagnosis of autism?
Very few family doctors are qualified to make the actual diagnosis of Autism. For that you will need to see a Pediatrician or Psychologist, who specializes in the disorder. If your family doctor is not familiar with autism, you should bring a copy of the M-CHAT results which will have guidance for them.
There are numerous medical professionals in the province who specialize in autism. I would recommend that you get in touch with other parents through the Autism Support Network or AutismBC. They will be glad to point you in the right direction for your region.
Public or Private?
An autism assessment can be done in the public system through the BC Autism Assessment Network (BCAAN) such as the one offered through Sunnyside Hospital or you can pay for it privately through a clinic such the ABLE Developmental Clinic in Surrey, West Vancouver or their new location at the Pacific Autism Family Centre.
The public system may have a long wait list (up to one year) for assessments and this may delay the treatment process. The private system offers a more timely assessment. It can be expensive, although the fees may be covered by your extended health care plan if you have one.
The other advantage of the private system is that you own and control the final report. Note however, that if you go private, you must have assessments from a pediatrician, a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) and a psychologist.
The cost of a private assessment may be overcome by receiving autism funding from the BC government earlier than waiting for the public system assessment.
My personal recommendation is that you should go private. I’ve heard many stories of the public system being reluctant to make an autism diagnosis. A cynic might say that the government is trying to save money by rationing the diagnosis or by using very stringent criteria. The private system has no such bias. You simply can’t afford to delay the treatment of your child.
Now is the time to seek out families in your area who have children with autism. I can’t emphasize strongly enough, that you must get connected. Setting up an ABA team is a complex business and you simply don’t have enough information to do it on your own. A good place to start is the Autism Support Network .